I seldom say that you absolutely need a certain tool in your shop but if you work with metal, you need a cutoff saw or your arms will certainly revolt very soon.
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Rockwell 14” Metal Cut Off Machine

Defeating metal economically

Text, photo and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-26-2010

A chop saw is virtually standard equipment anywhere metalworkers stop for more than a few minutes at a time. This style of saw is not fancy in terms of the engineering behind it. The exception is the ¼”-wide abrasive wheel that somehow cuts metal without blowing up. Aside from that bit of abrasive management trickery the chop saw (as they are commonly called) is reasonably straight forward in its design and construction. Despite that it does one job, does it well and makes your life easier in the process.

The Basics

The Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine is built around a 15-amp, 110V motor that sends its power through a gear drive that produces 3500-RPM (minimum at no load) at the abrasive wheel. There is a slide-type arbor lock that engages a slot in the back washer to hold the wheel for blade changes. A wrench is supplied for making wheel changes and adjusting the fence system. The wrench stores on the side of the base in spring clips where it is always handy as long as you actually put it away after use.

The motor is controlled by a trigger style ON/OFF switch built into a full-loop handle. A small red slider switch is built into the ON/OFF trigger that locks the trigger in the ON position for extended jobs. You have to pull the ON/OFF trigger switch fully and then slide the lock ON switch forward to engage it.

The motor and switches (left) are easily reached and used. The chain limiter (right) and depth stop are very basic but work!
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The plunge arm has a depth stop near the hinge point that can be adjusted as the wheel loses diameter. There also is a chain hold-down that is always secured and limits the full up travel. For transport you hook a link over a pin on the arm itself to hold it down when moving from job to job. To make that transporting easier there is a built in carry handle on top of the arm.

The table is 18-11/32” by 9-3/4” which is in the standard range for this type of machine. The table (along with the whole machine) rests on four plastic feet. These feet do help keep the Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine more stable on not-so-even surfaces.

The rear of the table features a knock-down plate directly in line with the abrasive wheel. This plate helps reduce the amount of sparks that get shot to the rear. Without this plate sparks can fly several feet which increase the chance of starting something on fire or contaminating other uninvolved workers in the area.

An adjustable work clamp and fence system allows making simple 90-degree and not-so-common angled cuts with accuracy. This system allows making cuts up to 30-degrees the left and 45-degrees to the right.

The work clamp (left) can be adjusted for most angles you will need to cut. The spindle has a flip-up lock (right) that lets you slide the jaw up to the workpiece without having to crank it all of the way.
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The moveable jaw is mounted to the end of the spindle on a horizontal pivot so it automatically aligns itself with the material when pressure is applied. The fine-threaded screw makes applying sufficient clamping pressure through the paddle-like handle easy enough. A flip out thread lock lets you move the spindle forward or back as needed without having to crank it all the way. Then when the spindle is where it is needed, flip the thread lock forward and you can dial in clamping pressure desired. This spindle lock can only be applied or unlocked when clamping pressure is released.

The “fixed” side of the clamp can be repositioned closer to the hinge to increase the width of cut. Just remove the two bolts that secure it and move the assembly over the two extra holes provided and reinstall the bolts.

The two-piece wheel guard keeps all but the very bottom of the wheel covered for your safety. This is necessary for containing both the normal particles that break off of the wheel during use and the potential chunks that can be fired outwards should something go very wrong during a cut.

The forward portion of the guard can be flipped up and back over center to stay there on its own only when the arm is in its full up position. With the forward section of the guard flipped back the arbor bolt is exposed to make abrasive wheel changes much easier.

In the Shop

The two-piece guard does a good job of keeping you out of harms way while still allowing access for changing wheels.
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Using the Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine is pretty straightforward. Its controls are easy to understand and as long as you let the machine do its work, cutting metal is a simple task. Even cutting miters is easy.

The available power is sufficient but you have to remember to let the abrasive wheel do its job. If you try to force this kind of wheel through a piece of metal you can at the very least ruin the abrasive wheel or shorten its life considerably. If you are not so lucky, forcing this kind of wheel can initiate a fracture and your day gets very exciting all at one time.

The fence system is effective but I would recommend using your own angle finder to confirm the 90-degree setting as well as miters. This kind of marked scale is usually very close but it is almost never perfect. If you want to make your welding and assembly life easier, set the fence with a good angle gauge that is known to be correct.

The plunge spring is strong enough to keep the arm up without being tiring to use. The grip and trigger ON/OFF switch are comfortable and work as expected. The lock on slider portion of the trigger is a little more difficult to use but that seems to go away fairly quickly with some experience. The good news is that this lock on switch is about impossible to engage accidentally.

Actually cutting metal simply requires you to let the Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine do its job. I know it feels like you are waiting too long but just think about how long the same cut would take with a you-powered hacksaw. I certainly can stand still long enough to save a bunch of time and effort even if it doesn’t happen as instantly as I might like.

Conclusions

Video Tour

The Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine is an economical machine that will handle the needs of a home-based or even medium sized metal shops. It comes with all of the standard features that make it easy to use and effective.

With a street price of just $189.99 (10-26-2010) the Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine can bring solid metal cutting performance to your shop without killing the budget. If you are getting tired of that hand-operated hacksaw, check out the Rockwell 14" Cutoff Machine. Your files, grinder and arms will thank you.

Visit the Rockwell web site – Click Here

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